Friday, April 22, 2011

Autumn Racing Carnival 2011 – Sydney Cup

RIP Hot Danish – a sad loss to Australian racing

The Autumn carnival winds up this Saturday with the  running of the 3200 metre Sydney Cup and three other Group One races at Randwick – the Champagne Stakes for two year olds, the Queen Elizabeth Stakes for middle distance/staying types and the All Aged Stakes a sprint over 1400 metres. A nice variety of races in fact.

For once I can watch them on the home TV, as for the last few Saturdays I have been out and about fulfilling social obligations, and racing coverage has been hard to find.

Last week’s Sydney meeting was turned upside down by the weather and the state of the track , though not really unusual for Sydney during the autumn, was rated heavy going. This resulted in long shot mudlarks taking out the major events. Sacred Choice (8/1) who in similar conditions during the spring in Melbourne defeated Typhoon Tracy, won the Doncaster Mile. More Joyous failed to fire and ended way back in the field. The Oaks was taken out by the runaway Absolutely (30/1) with the game Shamrocker relegated to second place and Pinker Pinker running  third. Atomic Force (10/1) was the winner of the Galaxy.

I sincerely hope that the weather is kind this weekend, though it’s still a tough call on most of the Group One races with any number of runners having claims.  Let us consider first the Champagne Stakes run over 1600 metres.  Sires Produce Stakes winner Helmet looks the top pick for this, though second placer Uate may turn the tables on him this time, considering the extra 200 metres to be run. Consistent filly Pane In The Glass is also worthy of consideration as is the Bart Cummings trained Salade.

The Queen Elizabeth Stakes, a WFA competition over 2000 metres, has a decent field of tried an true old stayers like Zavite, Cedarburg, Vision And Power (if he gets a run) and Wall Street as well as the talented three year old Retrieve and mystery English horse My Kingdom Of Fife, a last start winner. Sacred Choice is backing up in this and could win again if the track is rain affected.

Run over the same distance as the Melbourne Cup, though not having the same prestige, the Sydney Cup is nonetheless a staying handicap of historical import. It was won by the mare Jessicabeel last year after earlier winning the Chairman’s Handicap , so I give the Gai Waterhouse trained mare Once Were Wild a very good chance to win this year, having followed a similar path to Jessicabeel  by winning the Chairman’s Handicap  two weeks ago.  The current favourite is C’est La Guerre who rarely wins but does like the Sydney way of going, followed by stable mates Mourayan and Muir who recently won the Adelaide Cup over the distance.   French bred  horse Laristan (a lovely grey beast) is also fancied in some quarters, as is Hawk Island.

The All Aged Stakes will be run as a sort of memorial to Hot Danish who sadly was put down last Sunday due to an incurable and crippling leg infection. A favourite in Sydney this bonny, almost black mare was around for years gamely running with the best. She scored her first Group One victory in the All Aged Stakes last year.

The field assembled this year is first class. Hay List the second best sprinter in Australia and possibly the world, will start favourite. As it’s over 1400 metres, not his pet distance of 1200 metres, there may be a chance for one of the others to catch him. Rangirandoo, for instance , who recently won the George Ryder Stakes, old favourite Heart of Dreams who has returned to racing this autumn in fine form, and Shoot Out who was disappointing in the T J Smith, but may show marked improvement second up. Melito is sure to figure somewhere in the finish, recently running second to More Joyous in the Queen of the Turf and Triple Honour who scored third place behind Black Caviar and Hay List in the TJ Smith is also a chance.

Though the autumn carnival will be over in Sydney after this weekend, the Adelaide and Queensland winter season will keep the ball rolling for another month or so. The resumption of Black Caviar in the BTC  Cup on 14th May is a highly anticipated event.

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